One month in Rapid City, South Dakota doing US Forest Service grassland research

Yesterday March 15, my supervisor, Dr. Jacqueline Ott, and my co-Technician Myesa Legendre-Fixx hauled supplies out to field sites to eventually build rain-out shelters for a drought experiment. I took the picture above before we unloaded our trailer. This past month I have learned a lot about the US Forest Service, specifically the grassland research branch – also known as Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems (MRDE). I think it is relatively unknown to the general public that the USFS manages National Grasslands as well as National Forests. Both serve as lands to be managed for the public. Grasslands in particular are important to the US food chain. They supply cattle with space to roam and grass to munch (to fatten the steaks we love so much). Climate change might change the species distribution of grass species – likely depending on which ones are better at adapting to increased drought and heat. My lab performs various experiments to try to determine natural and man-made drivers that will determine grassland health in the future. I spent the past month working for Environment for the Americas and the USFS learning more about all of these things while based in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Some tasks I’ve done and new skills I’ve learned:

  • How to drive a trailer behind a truck (and a little bit of practice backing up)
  • How to make better maps on GIS for various uses
  • How to use a GPS
  • How to set up a new laboratory balance
  • How to assemble a lawn mower
  • How to identify plant families
  • How to check data for mistakes

The ~Weekends

I’ve taken advantage of my time out here in the West. I went to ski with a friend I haven’t seen in 2.5 years in Denver. I went to visit my girlfriend in Sioux Falls, SD. And I did graduate school research in a café in town, Harriet & Oak. Enjoy some of these pictures I took. There’s a lot of exciting things to come – I was accepted into my top choice graduate programs this month. I am visiting my top two this weekend! Stay tuned.

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